Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings: The race is on
1. Washington Capitals (34-11-6, previous ranking: 1)
With the NHL All-Star break in the rear view mirror, the race is on for playoff spots and for teams ready to dip their toes in the trade market. There’s less than a month until the March 1 trade deadline where rentals will be dealt, but the question remains as to just how many big trades will be coming down the pipeline with the NHL expansion draft this summer.
Certainly some rental players like Kevin Shattenkirk, Ben Bishop, Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal could be dealt to the highest bidder, and there are some natural fits for them. Bishop makes all kinds of sense for the St. Louis Blues as a St. Louis native, and as a goaltender that can actually stop a puck every once in a while. Hanzal would be the big center that the Montreal Canadiens have been seeking out for years, and Shattenkirk could be a fit with the Bruins if the price comes down for a player that’s essentially a second pairing/power play specialist not unlike Torey Krug.
But beyond that it might be a slow trade season given the expansion draft, where teams would have to find a spot to protect players with term on their contracts, and given a salary cap situation that’s very unsettled for next season. So NHL teams hoping to find all the answers to their problems at this spring’s trade deadline might have to re-think that philosophy a little bit.
Without further ado here are this week’s power rankings:
1. Washington Capitals (34-11-6, previous ranking: 1)
The Capitals aren’t just maintaining their place atop the NHL standing. They’re crushing other teams and putting up big offensive numbers along the way.
2. Minnesota Wild (33-12-5, previous ranking: 2)
The Wild are pretty much rolling, but that 5-1 loss to the Flames is a little eye-opening. That came at the end of nine wins in their previous 11 games, however.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets (33-12-4, previous ranking: 3)
There’s been some slippage from the defense and the goaltending in allowing 19 goals in the last four games, and that’s something the Blue Jackets need to be on top of given their overall team strengths.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (31-13-5, previous ranking: 4)
The injury to Evgeni Malkin didn’t really slow down the Penguins train at all. It’s amazing to think that three of the top four teams in the power rankings are Metro Division teams, and that the reigning Stanley Cup champs round up that list of three.
5. San Jose Sharks (33-17-2, previous ranking: 6)
The Sharks have won eight of their last nine games with only a loss to Edmonton as their only blemish. Hats off to Patrick Marleau for potting his 500th career goal with the Sharks.
6. Montreal Canadiens (30-15-7, previous rank: 5)
The Habs are still the class of the Atlantic Division, but they really need to find themselves a bona fide No. 1 center if they hope to take down any of the Metro Division powerhouses in the playoffs.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (31-17-5, previous ranking: 7)
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that Chicago doesn’t expect to do much at the trade deadline, and I really don’t believe Stan Bowman. You always have to have your head on a swivel in a vicious puck-fight.
8. New York Rangers (32-18-1, previous ranking: 8)
Who would have guessed that Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and J.T. Miller would be the top three point guys on the Blueshirts at this point in the season? Definitely a team in transition, but New York still looks capable of doing some damage.
9. Anaheim Ducks (28-15-9, previous ranking: 12)
The Ducks played one game over an eight day stretch, and they made it worth their while kicking the stuffing out of the Colorado Avalanche. But then again who hasn’t done that?
10. Edmonton Oilers (28-17-8, previous ranking: 9)
Just think how good this team would be if Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins actually lived up to their advanced billing. The Oilers are going to the playoffs, and the feeling is they’re just starting to scratch the surface of how good they can be.
11. Ottawa Senators (27-16-6, previous ranking: 10)
Mike Condon has started 23 games in a row and held the Senators in playoff place. That’s good news. Even better news for Ottawa is that Craig Anderson has rejoined the team and is working his way back into game-readiness after spending time with his ailing wife.
12. Philadelphia Flyers (26-20-6, previous ranking: 14)
Dave Hakstol with a bold coaching move scratching 19-year-old Travis Konecny and 23-year-old Shayne Gostisbehere for the same game, but getting the big win over the Canadiens. Maybe that guy knows what he’s doing.
13. Nashville Predators (25-18-8, previous ranking: 13)
The Predators are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games and making a move in the Central Division as some of their rivals seem to be standing still. It happened prior to P.K. Subban returning, but that certainly hasn’t hurt either.
14. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-17-9, previous ranking: 11)
It could be an Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner race down the wire to see who wins the Calder Trophy this season. Wouldn’t that be pretty awesome, and not just for Leafs fans either?
15. New York Islanders (22-17-9, previous ranking: 20)
The Islanders are 5-0-1 in their six games since Doug Weight took over as head coach. It’s almost like they’re a brand new team, and I’m not just saying that because they’ll feel like a new team playing in a different building next season.
16. Los Angeles Kings (26-21-4, previous ranking: 18)
The Kings did a marvelous job of hosting the NHL All-Star game last weekend, and now things are set up for them to finish strong while locking up a playoff spot. There’s still another gear for guys like Anze Kopitar.
17. St. Louis Blues (25-21-5, previous ranking: 15)
The firing of Ken Hitchcock is the first shoe to drop for the Blues, who certainly haven’t been close to what Doug Armstrong has wanted out of his hockey club this season.
18. Boston Bruins (26-22-6, previous ranking: 16)
The Bruins lost four in a row, won three in a row and then got spanked by the Washington Capitals. It’s still more treading water for a hockey club that needs to rip off a long eight or nine game winning streak to really punch their playoff ticket.
19. Florida Panthers (22-19-10, previous ranking: 19)
The Panthers are hanging around and just got both Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov back into their lineup. This is now or never for a young Florida team that’s underachieved all season, and been beset by some curious decisions behind the scenes.
20. Winnipeg Jets (25-25-4, previous ranking: 27)
Ondrej Pavelec has truly helped stabilize things for Winnipeg since getting called up from the AHL, but that begs a couple of questions: How long can this last, and is it already too late for this year’s group?
21. Calgary Flames (26-24-3, previous ranking: 21)
Give the Flames credit, they’ve ripped off a couple of wins against the Senators and Wild since their head coach tore them to shreds following a lifeless loss in Montreal.
22. Buffalo Sabres (20-20-10, previous ranking: 23)
The Sabres are a flawed team with a weak defensemen group aside from Rasmus Ristolainen, but they are still hanging around near the bottom of the Atlantic. The Atlantic Division, that is.
23. Tampa Bay Lightning (22-24-6, previous ranking: 22)
One keeps waiting for the Lightning to snap out of it and make that late surge for a playoff spot, but instead they’ve lost three games in a row while looking like a dead team walking. Jon Cooper might not be long for this coaching world given the way they’ve underachieved even counting the Steve Stamkos injury.
24. Carolina Hurricanes (22-20-7, previous ranking: 26)
The Hurricanes just keep hanging around and tempting Ron Francis to go out and trade for a scoring forward to give them more punch. This is a big month to become a contender [for a playoff spot] or a pretender.
25. New Jersey Devils (21-21-9, previous ranking: 28)
The people that run things in New Jersey are finding that you need more than Taylor Hall and Cory Schneider to consistently win hockey games. Would you imagine that?
26. Dallas Stars (21-21-10, previous ranking: 24)
Apparently Lindy Ruff is going to get the rest of the season to get the Stars into the playoffs, and then he’ll pay the price if they don’t. After learning that the Stars promptly dropped a 4-3 game to a Winnipeg team that’s just about as hopeless as they are. Not looking good there, Lindy.
27. Vancouver Canucks (23-22-6, previous ranking: 17)
The Canucks seem to yo-yo back and forth between a team that might make some kind of move into playoff position, and a team that should just let the bottom fall out. I’d lean more toward the latter than the former if I was Jim Benning.
28. Detroit Red Wings (20-21-9, previous ranking: 25)
The Red Wings have lost five games in a row since that wild shootout win over the Bruins in Detroit. That should let you know how unforgivable it was to not come out of that game with two points if you’re the Bruins.
29. Arizona Coyotes (16-28-6, previous ranking: 29)
Somebody please rescue Shane Doan from this team. It’s tough to see the four goals and 16 points for him coming out of the NHL All-Star break knowing that a chance at a Cup might really energize him.
30. Colorado Avalanche (13-33-2, previous ranking: 30)
The Avalanche have lost nine games in a row and are completely swirling down the bowl. You know it’s pretty bad when Jarome Iginla is practically begging somebody to trade for him and rescue him from a pathetic situation.